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Read This Before You See The Child's Play Reboot

In 1988, a film hit theaters that would change the landscapes of both the horror genre and Spencer's Gifts shops forever. Child's Play, based on a story by a bright-eyed young writer named Don Mancini, introduced audiences to Chucky, a Good Guy doll with a penchant for stabbery. The iconography was close to instant, and the genre of "terrifying dead eyed toy comes to life" was born, paving the way for future classics like Annabelle, The Boy, and Toy Story.

More than 30 years have passed since the release of the original Child's Play. Over three decades, we've seen six sequels of wildly differing tones, flanked by cross promotions, merchandising, and Chucky cameos across all entertainment platforms, keeping the cursed killer doll constantly in the public consciousness.

But everything old must be new again, and Child's Play is finally stepping up to the reboot plate. What do you need to know before seeing the new movie? Let's find out.

Chucky 101

As introduced in the first Child's Play movie in 1988, the killer doll called Chucky started out as a humble murderer of the non-doll variety.

During the first two acts of his life, Chucky lived as Charles Lee "The Lakeshore Strangler" Ray. Charles was a relatively unspectacular crime enthusiast, only truly separated from the greasy-haired, trench coat-clad movie bad guy pack thanks to an interest in (and this is about to get dated pretty immediately) evil voodoo. Wow, pop culture makes a noise when it ages poorly that fast.

During the opening scene in 1988's Child's Play, Ray is mortally wounded by a police officer while fleeing a robbery. In a last act of desperation, he uses his voodoo expertise to transfer his soul into a "Good Guy" doll. The longer his consciousness stays inside the doll, the more attached he becomes to its creepy plastic form. He'd spend the next three decades sort of waffling on whether he wanted to stay a doll, but his first couple of adventures found him slashing his way towards the goal of putting his soul into another human body and stabbing some revenge into anyone that had wronged him.

A brand new Chucky

Shocking though it may be, it seems like the studio responsible for the 2019 Child's Play reboot was less than comfortable with the voodoo angle from the original. Something about outdated, racially-charged misrepresentations of people's religious views, probably.

This time around, Charles Lee Ray and the spiritual aspects of the original have been nixed. Instead, Chucky is being presented as a "Buddi" doll, an animatronic smart toy for a new generation of Facebook likers and iPhone havers. According to director Lars Klevberg, he's an "out of control robot doll." This puts it more in the vein of Black Mirror-style "isn't-technology-spooky" stories than the original franchise, with Chucky using WiFi-connected smart devices like drones to assist in much of his no-goodery. It's certainly a departure from the more down-to-earth enchanted revenge toy we've all come to know over the years. Whether fans of the old movies will be on board remains to be seen.

Andy Barclay

Chucky would be nowhere without a friend to the end. That's where Andy Barclay comes in.

In the '88 Child's Play, Andy is the son of Karen Barclay. It's established that his dad has passed away, and he spends much of his time alone. But all is not grim: he has the fictional Good Guys cartoon show to comfort him, and he loses his tiny composure when he finds out that his favorite show is releasing a top-shelf doll based on the main character. Through questionable avenues of capitalism, his mom manages to get her hands on one, tragically unaware that it's possessed by a murderous spirit. When Chucky reveals his situation to the boy, he inadvertently bonds himself to Andy.

Andy was originally played by Alex Vincent, who would reprise the role in Child's Play 2, and again as an adult in 2013's Curse of Chucky and 2017's Cult of Chucky. For the reboot, he's portrayed by up and coming child actor Gabriel Bateman. You may have already seen him on shows like American Gothic and Outcast. Later this year, you'll hear him voicing Charlie in Playmobil: The Movie.

Karen Barclay

No parental nightmare scenario movie would be complete without a long-suffering mother, and Child's Play's Karen Barclay is a tough one to beat.

Originally played by Catherine Hicks, otherwise best known for her portrayal of Gillian in Star Trek IV, Karen was having a rough go of things in the '80s. When we meet her, she's lost her husband and is trying to raise an unusual child on her own, all while working for an unforgiving boss at a Chicago department store jewelry counter. Spotting a chance to shine maternally, she jumps at the opportunity to buy a discount Good Guy doll from a hustler behind the shop one day, not realizing that it came from the burned-out toy store where murderer Charles Lee Ray had been killed not long before. Hijinks ensue, and by the time the sequel rolls around, she's under psychiatric evaluation on account of her steadfast belief that a doll tried to kill her.

2019 brings us a new Karen, this time played by Parks and Recreation's Aubrey Plaza. Anybody who's seen her on FX's Legion knows that she's got the chops for creepy business, but how she'll fare against Chucky remains to be seen.

Detective Mike Norris

In a way, this is all Mike Norris' fault. The Chicago PD detective was the one chasing Charles Lee Ray through the streets of the windy city, and the one who fired the shot that necessitated the Lakeshore Strangler's move to a new body. Because of this, he's one of the few people to eventually believe Karen Barclay's wild story about the spirit in her son's doll.

Detective Mike Norris was one of the most iconic parts ever played by Chris Sarandon, coming in behind Prince Humperdinck in The Princess Bride and the voice of Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Despite surviving the first movie, we don't actually see the guy again in the original film series, although his name shows up in a newspaper in Bride of Chucky and he's mentioned in passing during a Curse of Chucky post-credits scene.

In the reboot, Mike Norris is played by Brian Tyree Henry. If you don't know him from Atlanta, you probably recognize his voice from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, in which he played Miles' dad, Jefferson Davis, coincidentally also a policeman.

Henry Kaslan

Henry Kaslan is a new addition to the Child's Play universe. The head of Kaslan Corp, he looks to be a Steve Jobs/Jeff Bezos analogue, running an enormous tech company and pushing the idea of fully interconnected smart houses. These sorts of one-to-two-note embodiments of corporate shenanigans usually wind up hoisted on their own petards in the horror genre, but who knows? The most closely related character from the original franchise is Mr. Sullivan from Child's Play 2, the guy in charge of Play Pals Inc. He only stuck around for one scene to reinforce the whole "big companies are bad" deal before disappearing in a cloud of cigar smoke and poor people's tears. It took until Child's Play 3 before Chucky beat him with a golf club and garrotted him with a yoyo, subtlety never being the series' standout quality.

Kaslan is played by Tim Matheson of Animal House and The West Wing fame. For a sneak peek at what to expect, you can check out the website that Orion Pictures has established for Kaslan Corp, which features an ever-so-slightly foreboding message about their upcoming product, a friend "that will never let you down." We'll let the Rotten Tomatoes scores be the judge of that.

Return of the Jedi

In all seven of the original Chucky movies, the killer doll was played by acclaimed character actor Brad Dourif, who's also known for his appearances as Wormtongue in the Lord of the Rings movies and his Emmy-nominated run on Deadwood as Doc Cochran. 2019 marks the first time that a Chucky movie hasn't used Dourif's voice (more on that later). Instead, the studio enlisted Mark Hamill for the job.  

If you only have a passing familiarity with Hamill, you know that he's pretty much the best thing since Natalie Portman's low expectations to happen to the Skywalker name. In between stints as Luke, though, Mark Hamill has making a living as one of the most successful voice actors in Hollywood. Highlights include his run as the Joker, starting on Batman: The Animated Series in 1992 and stretching all the way to 2018's Lego DC Supervillains video game. He's appeared on Ben 10, Adventure Time, Transformers, and literally dozens of others. Here's where it gets retroactively meta: he even played Charles Lee Ray on an episode of Robot Chicken back in 2005.

Bad blood

As mentioned above, Brad Dourif voiced Chucky in all seven of the original films. Creator Don Mancini wrote or co-wrote all seven, directing three. Producer David Kirschner was involved it all of them, too. Even Alex Vincent, who played Andy in the first movie, appeared in the series as recently as 2017. Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that not one of these names appears in the credits for 2019's Child's Play. What's the deal?

The reboot, it turns out, is happening against the wishes of Child's Play's creators. Mancini even went as far as asking not to have his name appear anywhere in the film's credits. In a 2018 interview, he described how difficult it was to keep the franchise going for 30 years, only to have it pulled out from under him. The ill will runs deep: Jennifer Tilly, the titular Bride of Chucky, even started a #notmychucky campaign on Twitter.

For fans of Mancini, there's still good news. Due to some pretty wild legal loopholes, the rights to Chucky are astonishingly murky. As a result, Mancini plans to continue his Chucky stories via a TV series in the near future, continuing the ongoing mythology he and his collaborators have built over the years, with a cast of familiar faces along for the ride.

Let's go again

This isn't the first time that Chucky's been eyed by the reboot gods. Around 2008, Don Mancini and Brad Dourif were making a substantial amount of noise about revisiting Child's Play. According to the two of them, they'd be taking the character back to his horror roots, abandoning the goofier aspects of the later sequels in favor of straight up psychological horror and gore. Then suddenly, radio silence. What happened?

If you'll recall, 2008 was around the same time other A-list '80s horror stars were getting rebooted. There was 2009's new take on Friday the 13th, while 2010 saw A Nightmare On Elm Street reimagined with Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger. Big budget, gritty reimaginings of classic villains were supposed to be Hollywood's next big thing, but both pictures received, at best, middling reviews

In response, Mancini did what he'd been doing since 1988: he kept on keeping on, eventually releasing two more continuations of the franchise, Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky in 2013 and 2017, respectively. Interestingly, Mancini sort of got to have his reboot cake and eat it too — Curse opens with what appears to be a whole new continuity, only to slowly reveal its connections to the earlier films in a series of clever twists.

Evil never changes

Chucky and his cursed ilk have gone through a lot of changes over the years, but one thing has stayed pretty constant: when the cameras start rolling, animatronics are the star of the show.

Since the early days of Child's Play, people like animatronic designer Kevin Yagher have been creating remarkable practical effects to bring Chucky to life. Naturally, when word came down that a reboot was in the works, fans were nervous at the prospect of an all-CGI murder doll trying to take the place of their beloved psychotic puppet.

Good news for purists: the new Child's Play production utilized six animatronic Chucky dolls, operated by three to four puppeteers at a time. In a behind-the-scenes video, producer David Katzenberg expressed the importance of animatronics in getting the feel of Chucky right. In slightly less inspiring news, Aubrey Plaza said in an interview at Wondercon that she wasn't sure whether or not he'd be painted over digitally in post, but hey... the effort was there.

It could get weird

The details of the new movie are sparse for now. By all accounts, it's a straightforward horror flick without a lot of room for comedy. That said, if things do get weird, it'd be far from a first for Chucky.

While the first three movies, all released under Child's Play banner, were fairly straight-faced thrillers, Bride of Chucky came along in 1998 and took the series in a wild new direction. Bride leans hard into the camp factor right away, opening with a police locker full of movie slasher paraphernalia (i.e. Freddy's glove and Michael Myers' signature mask). Also of note: an undead doll sex scene, a wedding proposal with a ring still attached to a severed finger, and Katherine Heigl.

Things got increasingly bizarre from there. That same year, Chucky appeared on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update segment with Colin Quinn and hijacked a WCW broadcast. Since then, he's put out a family slideshow, invaded other iconic horror films, did a drunken interview with Entertainment Weekly. Most recently, made a cameo in 2018's Ready Player One.

The point is, the strangest thing would be if the new Chucky didn't get strange.